Gov. Rick Scott, following past gubernatorial precedent, announced in prepared statement Tuesday that he has asked the nine-member Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) to begin the process to nominate highly qualified successors to fill the three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court.
The JNC will now have 60 days to submit 3-6 names for each vacancy. According to the Florida Constitution, Justice Pariente, Justice Lewis, and Justice Quince are no longer able to serve on the Supreme Court after the end of their current terms on Jan. 7. If the Florida Supreme Court is going to avoid multiple prolonged vacancies, the JNC must convene now to meet the deadlines outlined in the Florida Constitution, the governor said.
“... Each of these justices is constitutionally ineligible to serve beyond the expiration of their current terms. With more than six decades of combined service on the Court, these three justices have made their mark on the state’s jurisprudence," Scott said. "To minimize or avoid any period of vacancy on the Supreme Court, the nominating process must begin well in advance of these vacancies. Beginning the process to fill these vacancies right now follows the practice of previous governors. Florida’s Supreme Court is so important to Floridians, and we will work together to select the most qualified justices to faithfully serve our state.”
The entire nominating and appointment process can take as long as four months. Three vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court for such an extended period would place a burden on the remaining justices and would risk delays in the Court, according to the governor.
The JNC must request applications, contact the applicants’ references and others in the community, review the results of criminal background screenings conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and any disciplinary files on the applicants maintained by The Florida Bar or the Judicial Qualifications Commission, interview the applicants, and conduct careful deliberations before making its nominations.
In 1998, Gov. Lawton Chiles invited Governor-elect Jeb Bush to participate in the interview process that led to the appointment of Justice Quince. Scott has said he intends to follow this precedent and will invite the governor-elect to conduct his own interviews of the nominees following the General Election. The governor’s expectation is that he and the governor-elect -- like Chiles and Bush -- will agree on the selection of three justices who will serve with distinction. Scott will not appoint any justice to the Florida Supreme Court until the governor-elect has had an opportunity to interview the nominees and review their references and qualifications.
For a Florida Supreme Court FAQ prepared by the Governor's Office, click here.